Why do you bake? (Part 1)
As someone who (regularly) teaches baking classes, is (irregularly) on social media, and (sometimes) active on online forums, and (always) exists on planet earth, I observe many reasons why people bake.
Does it matter? I think it does. Because different reasons can mean different processes and outcomes (that will be blog part 2).
However, often what I see is people (professionals and home cooks alike) pursuing someone else’s ideal loaf/roll/pastry/cake, instead of their own baked good goodness—whatever that may be.
I’ll narrow this down to just discussing bread and home cooks, but the principles apply to the wider baking and cooking worlds.
If you have never thought about why you bake, and want to think about it, here are some reasons I have seen:
Nourishment and Necessity
You like to eat: Me too. Eating delicious food is great.
You need to eat: For many across the world, bread is a staple food. It is made because that is what people eat. And people need to eat. Shortages/withholding of ingredients for bread-making can cause upheavals in countries.
Remoteness: If you want to eat spelt bread, and no baker or shop near you makes spelt bread, you might end up making spelt bread.
Additives: A common reason people share they have come to my classes to learn bread-making (sourdough or quick yeasted) is for the clarity about what they are eating. If you make it yourself, you can control what does and does not go into the food.
Costs: With retail prices ranging from $6-10+ ($AUD) per loaf, it adds up for a family eating a couple each week. For some, you gladly share some of hard-earned money with the hard-working baker; but others don’t have money to spare. It’s approximately a quarter of the cost to make your own (assuming buying quality flour in bulk bags in 2021) .
Therapy and Variety
Relaxation: Some people find slow, rhythmic kneading of dough by hand relieves stress and to be a pleasant form of exercise (others find the opposite!). The process of guiding the transformation of flour, water, usually yeast or starter, often salt and oil, into a cooked bread is amazing. The raw ingredients could not be more different; compare flour and water with a loaf of baked bread.
Escape from regular occupation: Almost everyone has a regular occupation. Some manage a household as a stay-at-home parent, others manage a corporation as a CEO and every variety in-between and either side. Often these have little variety in day-to-day activities. So, for some, bread-making offers an escape into a floury, yeasted, hot, aromatic, sticky, delicious world.
Artistry and Creativity
Unique medium: Artists are often seeking a new and challenging medium (substance) to work their artistry. The food world has long provided options for this: bread dough, chocolate, sugar, ice, margarine and butter. Each of these are used to create sculptures of jaw-dropping intricacy and architectural wonder. Some of the amazing and creative breads appearing on social media are more reminiscent of an artist using bread than a baker making bread.
Opportunity to express: Perhaps you have an occupation or role in life that is very routine and dull and limiting. Baking can be an outlet for creativity and ‘having a go’ and using your hands.
Social and Community
Baking connects people: If you desire community, try baking. Baking, especially bread, is common across the world. Many people in your suburb probably bake; many people in your city certainly bake; people across the world are baking. The internet has made finding each other so much easier to connect.
Impress contacts on social media: You may have used bread to impress people on social media. Maybe all the time; perhaps only rarely. But people are impressed by baking.
I suspect many people would place themselves in multiple categories. Great! (Maybe I’ve missed something, let me know.)
Perhaps you know someone who fits one of these categories who is not baking—perhaps baking could be helpful to them? Get together and try!
Blog Part 2 (coming soon) will unpack some of how these varying approaches and reasons for baking will impact processes and results.
(Hint: there is no one-size-fits-all recipe or method.)